The Inside Skinny on ‘Inside Out’

Those folks at Pixar deserve a raise. They’ve consistently made the best animated films from Finding Nemo to Up (and beyond) in the last twenty years. And ‘Inside Out’ is just as impressively creative and humorous. I haven’t laughed this much at a movie in a while. As you will see from the clip above, the focus of the film is on emotions, and in particular certain emotions— joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and yes anger. Notice what’s missing— where oh where did love and hate go? But I digress. With Amy Poehler as ‘joy’, the main guide to the inner life of Riley Anderson, a Midwest pre-teen uprooted from life in Minnesota when her family moves to San Francisco, we are taken on an hour and a half roller coaster ride of emotions as Riley tries to adjust to her new settings. Looking at life from the point of view of one’s emotions, while revealing, is also frustrating, because it shows how much emotions can skew one’s view of reality.

In a culture like ours where there is way too much focus on and obsessing about feelings, not least because we are the most narcissistic culture ever (who do you think invented the ‘Selfie’) this movie is bound to strike gold. When even counselors and pastors start conversations with ‘and how did that make you feeling when that happened’ or our troubadours regale us with songs like ‘I Second that Emotion’ you know we are living in feelings land, which of course is why sometimes people living in Emotionville take leave of their senses, never mind their sense of logic.

A good example of the latter would be the recent kerfuffle over Rachel Dolezal who though that just because she chose to self-identify as black, that made her black. Sorry— no. Heredity, DNA, chromosomes etc. determine that, just as they determine gender as well. Race and gender are not like an Erector set that one can construct as one wishes at will. We don’t get to pick our gender or race, but the very attempt to do so shows how radical individualism and emotional feelings are running rampant in our culture these days, and consistently over-ruling both logic and even biological reality. But again I digress.

What I find most compelling about this movie is it’s theme that various emotions, including sadness and fear, are appropriate and aide in having a balanced and normal life. There is a time for sadness and a time for joy. There is a time to be afraid, and a time to be brave. There is a time to be angry, and a time to refrain from anger. And yes, there are things to be disgusted about in life as well as pleased with. What is missing in the personifications in the film is love. Have we settled for ephemeral moments of joy or mere happiness, instead of love? Clearly enough in the movie, we have a family that genuinely loves each other, even under trying circumstances. But this film decides to focus on other emotions, perhaps wisely, because love is too big and complex a subject to cover in an hour and a half movie.

I also very much liked the balanced approach to imagination, long term memory, short term memory, dreams and other aspects of our cerebral life as they interact with emotions, which made the film not just about emotions. It deals in depth with early childhood memories as well. This is definitely a good conversation starter for parents with children who need to iron out some ‘issues’ specifically emotional baggage issues. Indeed, it may be the best kids movie all year, but why oh why people keep bringing children under three to movies is beyond me. The story line and most of the humor is well above the heads of any child under five or six. The toddlers at this film were pretty annoying throughout the film at Cinemark in Lexington today, almost as annoying that the people who keep ignoring all the warnings to turn off their cellphones while the movie is going.

As for the usual Pixar short subject, this one entitled “LAVA”, about a romance between two volcanos (don’t tell me let me guess, based on the novel, ‘the last of the red hot lavas’), it’s o.k., but by no means their best effort at a short subject.

With a dearth of good family films this summer, this is surely the best you will find the rest of the summer. Full disclosure, you probably won’t need a box of tissues, unless of course you are the kind of person who laughs until she cries.